At 4969mm, the new car is 5mm shorter than the previous model, although the wheelbase has been extended by 12mm, to 2926mm. It’s slightly narrower than the old A7 (1908mm compared with 1911mm) and, at 1422mm, is now 2mm higher. It maintains the useful 535-litre boot of the first-gen A7, with 1880 litres of capacity if the rear seats are folded – which Audi notes is enough for two golf bags (a hint at the car’s target audience).
The car’s slightly expanded dimensions also create a little extra space for passengers in the rear: a whole 21mm extra leg room and 5mm head room. It’s spacious enough in the back for two adults, although you’d wish to add the caveat ‘for a coupé’ as a warning to anyone planning to jump in the rear for a long journey. But the back seats aren’t where the focus of this car lies: unlike the A8, this is a car designed for driving rather than being driven in.
That’s reflected in the A7’s dashboard, which takes the minimalist design of the A8 and gives it a driver focus, which largely amounts to ever-so-slightly tilting the two central touchscreens – an upper 10.1in unit with an 8.6in one below it on the centre tunnel – towards the driver. Virtually all of the car’s systems are controlled either via the touchscreens or glass-fronted buttons around them; the steering wheel is the only place you’ll find any old-fashioned buttons or dials – most of which are there to operate the distinctly not-old-fashioned Audi Virtual Cockpit digital display. The artificial haptic and acoustic feedback of the touchscreen controls works effectively (see panel, right), even if it does take some time to work out which screen controls which function.
The leather front seats are very comfy, as is the clean, minimalist cabin as a whole. There’s all the features you’d hope for in a car in this class, such as interior ambient lighting and dual zone climate control, and everything feels as wonderfully well-built as you’d expect from Audi. That said, it’s not the warmest of environments – it’s like spending time in a hip bar, as opposed to relaxing in your favourite armchair at home.
The A7 Sportback will launch with a single petrol option: the 55 TFSI, a supercharged V6 producing 335bhp and 369lb ft of torque, channelled through a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox. It will be followed shortly after (expect a delay of weeks, not months) by the 50 TDI tested here, a 3.0-litre V6 with 282bhp and 457lb ft of torque, which utilises an eight-speed tiptronic gearbox. Both engines feature mild hybrid drivetrains featuring a 48V electrical system that can deactivate the engine when coasting at speeds between 34mph and 99mph. And both have quattro systems, with the 50 TDI, expected to account for the bulk of UK sales, getting a self-locking centre differential that can send up to 85% of the torque to the rear wheels.
If the two engine options sound familiar, it’s because they match the launch line-up of the A8. You can read our review of the 55 TFSI here. As for the TDI, as in the A8, it's remarkably refined and quiet once cruising, and only occasionally coarse or hesitant at lower speeds. It will reach 62mph in 5.3sec (with a limited top speed of 155mph) and offers a pleasing hit of power if you go searching for the torque. That said, it’s at its best when effortlessly cruising.
Our Sport trim car ran on 20in wheels (19s are standard) and was fitted with optional adaptive air suspension (as opposed to the conventionally sprung set-up). While smooth riding for the most part, it was slightly more unsettled than you might expect on the bumpier roads on our test route in Cape Town, even in the softest of the A7’s drive modes, accessed via the Drive Select function.
Audi claims to increase the differences between the drive modes, which range from Efficiency to Dynamic, reflecting the car’s broad appeal. Perhaps inevitably, the best compromise is found in the individual mode: we preferred to set the handling to its most responsive, with the suspension and ride in comfort. Another option fitted to our test car was dynamic all-wheel steering. This turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the front wheels to improve low-speed manoeuvrability, and tilts them in the same direction at higher speed to boost stability. The system feels natural, and certainly makes the A7 easier to drive at low speeds than its not-insubstantial proportions might suggest.
Much like the A8, the A7 features a wealth of advanced driver assistance features and systems, including an auto stop/start system that reacts to the car ahead moving and adaptive driving assistant, which makes steering inputs to follow lines on the road. The combination of all those systems and the all-wheel steering does result in the steering feeling a little disengaged (and that’s before extra autonomous features such as self-parking systems arrive later this year), although it does make driving the A7 a comfortable, relaxed and easy experience.